Until very recently, I’ve never had a pinot from New Zealand that impressed me. Usually they’re thin, dull and consistently mediocre. The fruit is underripe, there’s little complexity, and the minerality is dominating and sometimes downright offensive. I dislike this style so much that I find myself avoiding NZ pinots at all costs unless I’m presented with a free bottle or an extraordinary deal. Such was the case with the 2006 Roaring Meg.
My experience with this wine was enlightening, to say the least. I was greeted by aromas of bright cherry, herbs and black tea. These flavors shone as well, combined with dried berries, spice and a splash of ripe strawberry. Hints of the typical NZ minerality were also there, but were only a small piece of the puzzle. The complexity was remarkable, and the finish was lingering and delightful. Blind I surely would have picked it as a well made pinot from Willamette Valley. Overall I found this wine extremely well balanced, with a round mouthfeel, exciting acidity and a fresh, vibrant finish.
Since I tasted the Roaring Meg I’ve encountered a few other pinots from this region and am fairly confident in saying: Central Otago has a lot to offer with this grape. I think there is still a lot of room for improvement, but as the vines age and the techniques improve, the quality of pinot from this area will continue to rise. However, I urge vintners in Marlborough to stick to sauvignon blanc. Please. The climate and soil are much better suited to a less finicky grape.
New Zealand will certainly never eclipse Bourgogne as the king of pinot. And tho possible, it is unlikely this region will rival the more modern pinots from California and Oregon. But there are certainly some values to be found from this up and coming region, and it’s an exciting time to begin following the Kiwis to their pinot noir promised land.